48 W, 72 L, 889 IP, 987 H, 115 HR, 321 BB, 532 K, 42 HBP, 5.04 ERA, 1.66 K/BB
That’s the line the St. Louis starters put up last year. Not real pretty, is it?
If there is any chance for 2008 to be more than a rebuilding year, for the Cardinals to actually contend, it may lie in the fact that last year’s team finished only 7 games out with starting pitching as bad as that. Can this year’s squad improve on those numbers? Let’s take a look.
Let’s take each member of the projected rotation and do some guesstimating about how they’ll fare in 2008. I’m sure there are projections out there for all of these guys that take into account many variables, but most of the ones I know about are, I believe, behind the Baseball Prospectus membership wall. I do plan on grabbing the BP book when it comes out next month, but I’ve never subscribed to their site. Besides, it’s all guesswork right now anyway. I’m sure to be way off, but that’s what the comments are for, right?
Adam Wainwright (2007: 14-12, 202 IP, 212 H, 13 HR, 70 BB, 136 K, 3.70 ERA)
Wainwright developed into the staff ace down the stretch in 2007. When you realize that he had an ERA of 6.14 in April and 5.00 in May, you really appreciate what he had to do to get those final numbers in the shape they were in. You’d expect him to take a bit of a step forward next year as he continues his development. I don’t want to project out all the numbers. Let’s just say 15-10, 3.65 ERA.
Braden Looper (12-12, 175 IP, 183 H, 22 HR, 51 BB, 87 K, 4.94 ERA)
Most of last year, I felt like the team was playing with fire using Looper. He had some stretches where he carried the team, but he had some as well where he got lit up. It’s possible that with another year, he’ll be stronger and more effective. It’s also possible hitters will have figured him out. To be conservative, let’s stay with something similar to last year. 11-13, 5.01 ERA.
Joel Pineiro (6-4, 63.2 IP, 69 H, 28 ER, 12 BB, 40 K, 3.96 ERA w/SL)
Pineiro was one of Jocketty’s gambles that paid off last year. Watching him, though, you always felt that you were on the edge of disaster as he seemed to be a “lucky” pitcher. Hard hit balls became double plays, etc. That’s one reason I wasn’t too excited about his return. LaRussa and Duncan say that he was just tipping his pitches and they’ve fixed that. I’ve never heard an organization use the “tipping pitches” excuse as much as this one does, by the way. Seems like that’s their answer to most anything, and rarely is it successful. But taking that with his results last year and we’ll be a little optimistic: 11-8, 4.00 ERA.
Now we get into the realm of basically total speculation.
Matt Clement (DNP)
What will the Cardinals get out of Clement? It’s a total crapshoot at this point. He’s had some good years in the National League. His last healthy year with Boston wasn’t terrible. If, if he’s healthy, he’ll probably get close to 200 innings. The problem is, the Cardinals don’t have a great track record for signing rehab projects. Even Carpenter had a set back before becoming, well, Chris Carpenter. I’m going to guess that he’ll be healthy most of the year, get about 175 innings, and go 8-9, 4.40.
Mark Mulder (0-3, 11 IP, 22 H, 4 HR, 7 BB, 3 K, 12.27 ERA)
Again, what are you going to get out of Mark Mulder? The Cardinals say he’ll be ready to go by the beginning of May. The Cardinals, in my experience, are one of the worst teams about figuring out when a player will return. The return date always seems to slide back and back. May sounds reasonable with Mulder, but will it actually happen? And will he really be healthy when he comes back?
Questions, questions, questions. And, really, no good answers. You’d like to think that Mulder would show more of the form that he had in Oakland, which made Jocketty trade for him. I think it’s optimistic to think that. I’m going to say 6-10, 4.50 with another stint on the DL.
Add in the fact that you may get 3-4 starts out of Carpenter (I can’t see him getting back before August, no matter what the team says) and you won’t have the terrible starts from Kip Wells and Mike Maroth this year, I think it’s very reasonable to expect the starting staff to improve. Whether that will lead to a resurgence in the standings is another matter.